Jobs blow: 140 posts could be lost at NI power stations, says union

Kilroot power station near Carrickfergus in Co Antrim. Pic by Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press
Kilroot power station near Carrickfergus in Co Antrim. Pic by Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press

An estimated 80 AES job losses and a further 60 contractor redundancies are likely across Kilroot and Ballylumford power stations in Co Antrim, trade union Unite has claimed.

Unite has been formally notified of more than 20 redundancies by AES, but says the job loss figure is expected to rise sharply.

The union has called on the energy regulator to intervene to allow SONI to offer a ‘capacity contract’ quickly in order to avoid all 250 AES jobs being lost.

Despite being included in the 2018 All-island Generation Capacity Statement published last week by the System Operator for Northern Ireland (SONI), AES management have brought forward planned redundancies across Kilroot and Ballylumford B power stations as a result of the exclusion of generators at both sites from supply contracts under the current Integrated Single Electricity Market.

The exclusion from the contracts to supply has come about as a result of rules set by the electricity regulator and enforced by Irish-government owned SONI, which has responsibility for the management and operation of the transmission grid across the island of Ireland.

The decision threatens to shut down 36 per cent of Northern Ireland’s generating capacity and has been widely criticised as leaving the region dependent on imported electricity and vulnerable to blackouts post-Brexit.

Davy Thompson, Unite regional coordinating officer, spoke about the union’s fears for further job losses at Kilroot and Ballylumford, saying: “Last week Unite was notified of the likelihood of just over 20 job losses across Kilroot and Ballylumford; however we are preparing ourselves for that number to rise substantially. We understand that approximately 80 AES employees are likely to be made redundant in the near future. Unfortunately they won’t be the only ones affected, we are estimating the knock-on impact in terms of job losses on that scale could include an additional 60 direct, full-time contractors who work on-site. These redundancies will come as devastating news for those workers’ families at this time of year.”

Mr Thompson added: “We fail to understand the logic of a decision to cut 36 per cent of Northern Ireland’s generating capacity at a time when UK government briefings are warning of the possibility of black-outs post-Brexit. This decision will leave Northern Ireland dependent on electricity imported from the Republic when the our ability to do so is in question.

“In the absence of a ‘contract to supply’ under the current ISEM, it is now vital that the energy regulator intervenes to provide a ‘contract for capacity’ as quickly as possible. All 250 AES positions and a further 120 direct, full-time contractors working at Kilroot and Ballylumford B face the prospect of redundancy if that is not forthcoming.”

The News Letter has contacted AES for comment.